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An elderly couple was abducted from their upstate New York home and then held hostage in Canada as their kidnappers demanded millions of dollars worth of seized cocaine in exchange for their return.
James Helm Sr., 76, and Sandra Helm, 70, went missing on Sept. 27 from their home in Moira, which is located not far from the Canadian border, the New York State Police tweeted.
Graigory Brown, 50, of Plattsburgh and four alleged co-conspirators are accused of forcing their way into the couple’s home and kidnapping them, according to a press release from the local U.S Attorney’s Office. The Helms were then smuggled over the Canadian border, Syracuse.com reports.
“The victims were driven to Snye, Quebec, where they were put in a boat, taken to mainland Canada, and then transported to Quebec’s eastern townships where they were held for several days,” the press release stated. “While the victims were in Canada, Brown’s co-conspirators communicated ransom demands to one of the victims’ children.”
The ransom demand was for the return of 50kg of cocaine, believed to be worth $3.5 million, The New York Times reports.
Just days before the Helms were abducted, their grandson Mackenzie Helm, 28, and his mom, Michelle Helm, were arrested during a drug bust in Vermont where they were allegedly caught picking up 500 grams of cocaine, according to The New York Times. The cocaine was seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the mother and son face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics as a result of that bust, WCAX-TV in Vermont reports. It's estimated that the cocaine allegedly found on them was worth over $2 million and investigators believe it was headed to Canada. The captors, reportedly unaware that the Drug Enforcement Administration had the drugs in question, demanded a return of that cocaine or $3.5 million instead.
The kidnappers did not appear to have their demands met but the hostage situation did resolve peacefully. The victims were rescued from a house in Magog, Quebec on Sept. 29, 2020 by Quebec investigators and were recovered safely, The Montreal Gazette reports.
Brown and four other alleged co-conspirators were charged Thursday with conspiring to kidnap the elderly couple. While only Brown has been named, some details have emerged about the others. Three are reportedly Quebec residents while one is a resident of the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation, according to Syracuse.com. They range in age from 36 to 75. While all the charges against the group have not been divulged, investigators note that Brown faces a maximum of life behind bars.
“Mr. Brown’s alleged actions put an innocent couple in harm’s way during a truly terrifying situation,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas F. Relford stated in the press release.
It’s not clear if Brown has an attorney.
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